My final week in Siena was both relaxed and hectic. It was relaxed because we didn’t go anywhere outside the city which meant plenty of exploring. However, the week was hectic because we had finals, I got food poisoning, and there were still places in the city I hadn’t been to.
The finals were all fairly easy compaired to some of the tests at WOU and the schools the others were from but we still put our best into them. I’m bragging here so bare with me…I finished with two B’s and an A…go me. We had to write two papers for Deaf Culture and History, sign a prewritten story in front of a camera for LIS, and take a written test for Italian. All-in-all, fairly standard stuff. I had only one problem through it all, I got food poisoning that morning.
When someone says, “That chinese take-out place near the Campo has the best chinese food,” they don’t mean it’s the best they’ve ever had. They mean it’s all there is in the city. I’m warning everyone right now, DO NOT EAT CHINESE FOOD IN ITALY! Or, at least not in Siena. I’m sorry but that was the worst tasting food I’ve ever had. I threw all but what had made it into my mouth in the trash. And what I did swallow made me very sick. I still went to the final but it was Hell. Oh well, life goes on, right?
With classes all finished, I had a couple days to see a few more areas of interest around Siena. One of my classmates, Kristie, came with me so it was more fun. The first place we went to was the clock tower in the Campo (the Torre del Mangia). I had been walking by it every morning on my way to school but never had a chance to go in. Kristie and I got up early one morning and climbed to the top.
You can see how small people are in the photo standing at the bottom. It was definitely a climb. I was fine with it but Kristie’s legs were visibly shaking when we came down. I don’t have pictures on the inside because I recorded the whole climb but it was over 400 steps to the top. Some doorways and other areas were so tight and short, I had to contort to get through. I’m over six feet tall so some areas in the tower were a circus. Kristie is about a foot shorter than me and she had to duck through some areas. I just crawled.
While we were at the top, the bells started ringing all across the city. The tower goes first then all the churches follow in unison. This happens twice a day at noon and again at 7pm. I believe they ring at 7pm for evening mass but I’m not sure. Anyways, we weren’t aware of the time when we were standing right next to the large bell at the very top of the tower so you can guess what happened. I jumped hard, Kristie screamed (you know, that high yelp that seems to be something only girls do), and the one other person up there with us (a guy) twitched like I did. We looked at each other and started to laugh. A good time had by all.
After that, we toured our school’s museum
There was also plenty of old devices and photos of hearing aid technology used to help teach the children. Here are some of the pictures I took:
an old text book
These students were not fully Deaf so the instructor (a nun in this photo) spoke into a microphone and the children could hear what was said through head sets adjusted to each individual’s needs.
After a tour of the school, Kristie and I ran into a couple of the Italian students who were learning ASL. We mentioned that we were exploring the city more and they asked if we had been to the Duomo di Siena (Siena Cathedral) yet. When we told them no, they gave us specific instructions on what to do when we arrived.
Just to let you know, my family and friends are still riding me about this but I think it was rather clever.
We were told to sign while we were there. No talking. Basically, with the Italian students’ blessings, we pretended to be Deaf. Why? Because Deaf people get in at no charge. Yep, we lied our way into church.
Photos were not allowed inside most of the building but the black and white marble stripes are all inside as well. Kristie tried to give me grief about not paying after we were inside but like I told her, “You didn’t stop me.” So, we were the two peolpe of the day who did not pay for entry but I ask you this: is it right for a church to charge an entry fee? I did leave a donation though. Guilty conscience, who me?
One of the things I noticed in every church and cathedral, including the vatican, is Heaven is always shown above hip level and Hell and Death are shown below. Heaven above and Death below. To clarify, angels, white fluffy clouds, God, and all things good are high on the walls and ceilings. Skeletons, skulls, demons, Lucifer, Hell, and so on were always kept low to the ground, low in a mural, or literally underfoot. Here’s an example:
Ah, earlier I said pictures were not allowed inside but there was one room where it was okay. The main hall in the cathedral had some photo opportunities. Remember I said the black and marble continued inside as well?
and the pulpit (I had to take three pictures to get the whole thing, it’s that huge, but here’s one)
Outside is a wall that was never completed. This cathedral was going to be the original Vatican but construction was stopped when it was decided Rome would be the location for the Vatican. So, the cathedral was never finished but you can climb to the top of this wall and get a 360 degree view of Siena. I had taken a picture of the cathedral earlier when we climbed the tower in the Campo and i took a picture of the tower from the top of the wall at the cathedral. The tower is taller even though it is downhill from the cathedral.
You can see the wall on the far left of the cathedral photo. We were on the top of it. I think if you look very closely, you can see people up there.
some of the detail on one side of the cathedral. each statue is over seven feet tall.
On our final night in Italy, the school took all the students and teachers to dinner. We had a seven course meal (which turned into eleven courses because the restaraunt staff were all having a good time so they added courses to the meal). Food in Siena is not all pasta. Though that is there, most dishes are vegetables. In fact, during the meal, we only had one dish that had meat in it and it wasn’t even a quarter of a cup’s worth of meat. Dinner lasted around three hours.
Don’t freak out about it. Dinner in Italy is a time to socialize. Eating is just something to do while visiting. An average dinner in Italy can last up to four hours and they start late at night. Restaraunts don’t even serve dinner until 8pm. Which means Siena was still busy until the wee hours of the morning every day. But, we’re college students. Staying up late is in our blood.
This last meal was a marker in two people’s lives. Mine and another student named Mason. For me, that night represented the end of college. Yes, I graduated from university in Italy. I had even brought a cap and tassel from home and was going to wear it when my family picked me up at the airport. However, the Siena school staff found out about my graduation and I got Italy’s version of a cap and tassel instead. It’s a wreath of fresh Bay leaves held together with red ribbon.
Mason was one of the Deaf students who’s birthday just happened to be that night. We all knew since he had told one other person and she made sure to spread the word. Everyone pitched in for a special present that I’ll describe in a minute.
I had been pestering the staff at school for shirts that had the school’s name on them. The school staff had really cool shirts and thought, since they sold dictionaries, dvds, mugs, pins, and whatnot, they shold have shirts too. Right? Eventually, Christine (one of the staff I hung out with), got in my face and told me to stop pestering her. Hee hee. During the dinner, she stood up and anounced that the school wanted to thank us for participating in the program so they had shirts made for us. When she handed me mine she said, “Are you happy now?” I just smiled and said, “Yep!” One of the other instructors said I had one of those “shit eating grins”. What can I say, mission accomplished.
(I don’t have a good photo of the shirt, sorry. But I wore it home and people thought I was a staff member at a Deaf school even though the shirt does not say staff.)
Mason, the student I mentioned above, did not get the same shirt we all got. We had a special shirt designed for him for his birthday. Here it is:
He was so happy he cried.
The next morning, it was time to leave. I spent the next seventeen hours traveling from Siena to Florence (Firenze), to Munich, Germany, to Chicago, to Sacramento, and (finally) to my town. It was a very long, hectic trip. But totally worth it.
Siena, Italy was a blast. I learned so much and met so many different people, this has definitely been a life altering experience. Even though there were a few down sides that come with every long trip to a new place, there were so many good times that I wouldn’t hesitate to go on another adventure…maybe I’ll go to Africa this time…